Houston stuns observers, handily rejects transgender bathroom ordinance

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |
A screen shot of one of a number of ads used in a campaign to defeat Proposition 1 in Houston. The ads focused on a portion a proposed Human Equal Rights Ordinance, otherwise known as the "bathroom bill" because it would allow a man to use a woman's bathroom or locker room, at will. | Campaign for Houston/SCREEN SHOT

HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) – A coalition of Democrat and Republican voters united Tuesday to defeat a Houston transgender ordinance, and the strategy used may have laid the foundation to defeat similar proposals in other cities.

The controversial equal rights ordinance was handily defeated by a margin of 61-38 percent following a media blitz of commercials that warned it would endanger women by allowing male predators to use female restrooms.

Known as Proposition 1 on the ballot, the ordinance would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of classes in which discrimination was prohibited in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment and housing. The result was the exact opposition of a pre-election American Strategies survey that actually showed Proposition 1 winning, 52-37 percent. That poll was released in early October. A mid-October SurveyUSA poll had it up, 45-36 percent.

Christian conservatives were staunchly opposed to the ordinance, although they needed help to defeat it. That's because Houston leans Democrat, having voted for President Obama both in 2008 and 2012. The White House publicly supported the measure.

The coalition came together and united behind one message – no men in women's restrooms – and it resonated.

One particularly persuasive commercial showed an empty women's restroom, filmed in black and white for dramatic effect.

"Any man at any time could enter a woman's bathroom simply by claiming to be a woman that day," a female voice said. "No one is exempt. Even registered sex offenders could follow women or young girls into the bathroom. And if a business tried to stop them, they'd be fined."

At the end of the commercial, a young girl is seen entering a stall, with an unidentified male following her.

"Protect women's privacy. Prevent danger. Vote no on the Proposition 1 bathroom ordinance. It goes too far," the narrator concluded.

Former Houston Astro player Lance Berkman also recorded a commercial opposing it.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was a vocal opponent, and said on Twitter leading up to the vote, "Vote Texas values, not @HillaryClinton values. Vote NO on City of Houston Proposition 1. No men in women's bathrooms."

Following the vote, Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick released a statement, applauding the result.

"The voters clearly understand that this proposition was never about equality – that is already the law," Patrick said. "It was about allowing men to enter women's restrooms and locker rooms – defying common sense and common decency. ... The supporters of this proposition brought in movie stars and elites from Washington, DC and Hollywood to try to force their twisted agenda on the good people of Texas. It didn't work ..."

Supporters of the proposition vowed not to give up.

"We are disappointed with today's outcome, but our work to secure nondiscrimination protections for all hard-working Houstonians will continue," a statement from the Houston Unites yes campaign read. "No one should have to live with the specter of discrimination hanging over them. Everyone should have the freedom to work hard, earn a decent living and provide for themselves and their families."